Black Music Month: Queen Latifah - All Hail The Queen

"It's time to teach the def, the dumb, the blind, that black-on-black crime only shackles and binds, you to a doom, a fate worse than death, but there's still time left"

When you see the talk shows, movies, sitcoms and everything else it's easy to forget Queen Latifah is a rapper. In the argument of the best women MCs Queen Latifah is often overlooked. People often forget that she wasn't just female MC but she had majority of the men beat too. From 1989 to 1998 it was good to be the queen. It wasn't just the fact that she was a dope MC, she had a message with her music. Despite people trying to simply bottle her up as nothing but a feminist MC, she had way more messages than "Who you calling a bitch," on "U.N.I.T.Y."

Choosing a Queen Latifah album for Black Music Month isn't hard, considering they're all eligible. Latifah made a name for herself in the hip hop community through several ways. First, she was one of the few women who didn't rely on sex appeal to sell records. She's definitely not afraid to call other women out it either. On her song "Name Calling," she states "you rappers sellin' more sex than skill, chill," as well as "fuck giving props where they ain't due, fuck you, and that nigga who wrote the rhyme for you too." Bringing me to the second thing that put her on top. She was of the few women writing her own lyrics at the time. Latifah was never scared to kick a freestyle and prove that she was behind her own lyrics.

Third, at a time when being a "conscious" was not the trend, Queen Latifah did it with no apologies and still sold records. Latifah never strayed from discussing issues facing the black community, hip hop or anything else. Fourth, she addressed issues facing black women. In a world where rappers who happened to be women were on the rise Latifah stood above the rest because of this. Outside of MC Lyte few female rappers walked into the territory that Latifah did. It was uncharted and far from the beaten path, yet she did it and brought attention to issues most wouldn't even touch.

All Hail The Queen is the first album from Queen Latifah who had previously appeared as a guest on several high profile singles, as well as her own throughout 1988 leading up to it's release. Throughout the album Latifah experiments with various styles, most notably "Evil That Men Do," which has an obvious and heavy reggae influence. One thing that doesn't change throughout is the hard hitting drums and use of horns and woodwind instruments. The choice of beats is similar to an early De La Soul album. Latifah's flow matches those drums as it's hard and in your face, but her softer delivery makes sure it isn't her yelling at you for an hour.

The track "Mama Gave Birth to the Soul Children," is a posse cut from the Flavor Unit. Latifah states she's a Black Queen and birthed children of soul. She goes on to explain how that means she inspired them to pick up music. In turn she gives props to those that "birthed" her like Afrika Bambaataa. The track "Come Into My House," is mostly a house party track but she does point out how she still rises to the top in hip hop, an industry that doesn't bread a lot of women rappers. 

"Latifah's Law," features Latifah laying down the law. Lyrics like "BMW's and gold rope chains don't impress me, or get you closer to the point you can undress me, get skeezed on, your nose will bleed," let women know they shouldn't be impressed by whoever has the most money and flashy things. By "get skeezed on," she means creeped on, in other words, things like street harassment. If you harass Latifah, she's going to punch you in the face, so it's best if you don't. She also tells the men to stop trying fake it "You need to make it better, stop trying to be the mack again, get a grip on the African way, cause there's a sucker born every day," she's letting them know how silly they look trying fit these stereotypes. Lastly she sums up the rules simply "Rule number one: don't step across the line that I drew," don't think you can simply disrespect women, "Number two: don't take credit for something that you didn't do," stop biting lyrics and hiring ghost writers, "Number three: check your heart, every man has a call," be yourself.

The track "Ladies First," is special because Latifah explains why she's so highly respected. She states:
"I break into a lyrical freestyle, grab the mic, look into the crowd and see smiles, cause they see a woman standing up on her own two, sloppy slouching is something I won't do, some think that we can't flow, stereotypes, they got to go."
Latifah points out that at the time she was one of the few women not afraid to get on stage and rap. She was also standing there on her own merit. She wasn't just in a crew to look like a rapper and get some attention. Latifah was in the Flavor Unit but she was in the front, doing her own songs and standing out. In fact the group was usually billed as Queen Latifah and The Original Flavor Unit. She also refused to fall into the stereotypes of female rappers. Latifah was out to throw all the stereotypes out the window.

The third bar of "Evil That Men Do," has Latifah stating "I'm living positive, not out here knocked up," and if you know Latifah's music, she's long been stating that people, not just women, should remain celibate until they find the one they truly love. If you insist on having sex anyway, use protection. Another example of her doing this would be the Living Colour track "Under Cover of Darkness." It was strange at the time because rap music was entering the time when sex was becoming more high profile and more prominently mentioned in music. Then there was Queen Latifah telling people remain celibate, not for God, but for yourself. It was a strange contrast but the fact that Latifah wasn't running around with a litter of children and was able to live her life probably helped drive it home. Later in the track she states:
"Today, here is a message to my sisters and brothers, here are some things I want to cover, a woman strives for a better life, but who the hell cares, because she's living on welfare, our government can't even come up with a decent housing plan, so she's in no man's land, it's a sucker who tells you you're equal."
Welfare Queen is a term that gets thrown around a lot in every generation of conservative politicians. The idea that there are women who simply enjoy living on welfare despite the fact that it rarely covers all basic necessities. These women want better lives but nobody believes them and continually writes them off as lesser. Meanwhile they can't actually get jobs because women make less than men and urban neighborhoods often have low paying jobs below the poverty line. If they do get jobs and remain below the poverty line they still can't get welfare because they work. The government can never seem to come up with a good housing plan for those in need but in 2014 Utah proved it was cheaper to give homeless people an apartment and social worker to help them get jobs than other options. Meanwhile, most places are still locking up homeless. The thing is most homeless people suffer some kind of mental illness. When Ronald Reagan refused to fund the mental health system patients in hospitals and wards were simply tossed on the street creating more homeless people. The government caused this problem and still can't seem to fix it. The part about being equal goes for both black men and women, but especially women. No matter what politicians say, we don't have equal rights. It's that simple.

The track also features KRS-One and together they take on a variety of issues. KRS-One tackles apartheid with lines like "Johannasburg's crying for freedom." Latifah takes on drug addiction with lines like "someone's living the good life, tax-free, except for a girl, can't find a way to be crack free."

Then there's the black on black crime thing. Every time you turn on the news they're saying nobody in the black community cares about black on black crime and that's just a bold faced lie. Then people like Bill O'Reilly blame rap music for perpetuating it. Meanwhile on a an artist who has sold millions of albums since 1989, Queen Latifah states:
"It's time to teach the def, the dumb, the blind, that black on black crime only shackles and binds, you to a doom, a fate worse than death, but there's still time left, stop putting your conscience on cease, and bring about some type of peace"
She isn't the first to tackle the issue. I just feel like it needs to be pointed out again and again. No matter how the conservative media tries to paint rap music as the destroyer of the black community, it just isn't true. Rappers speak on the issues facing the black community. It's a genre of music born from black voices not being heard because the news media doesn't care. Why would they not care about putting a stop to the issues facing the black community. Sure, there's an ever growing number of people who simply want to get their money and bounce, but a large majority do care.

All Hail The Queen was Queen Latifah stepping on the scene and making a point. She had a lot of points to prove and she proved them all. She also had a lot of doubters that she wished to silence and she did. Since then she's gone on to be one of the most well known rappers of all time staring in dozens of movies, hosting her own talk show, the Grammy's and a whole heap of other accomplishments. Through all of that she has stood behind what she said and never allowed anyone who challenged her to go uncheck showing that she truly is The Queen.

Feel free to follow along with our Black Music Month Series

You can hear Darrell on the CP Time and Powerbomb Jutsu podcasts. He also plays classic arcade games on The Cabinet
Black Music Month: Queen Latifah - All Hail The Queen Black Music Month: Queen Latifah - All Hail The Queen Reviewed by Darrell S. on Thursday, June 18, 2015 Rating: 5

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